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Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Tis now about two years and three months since we first arrived at this distant country; all this while, we have been as it were buried alive, never having the opportunity of hearing from our friends...' Reverend Richard Johnson, 9 April 1790 'The men, thus armed and painted, drew themselves up in a line on the beach, and each man had a green bough in his hand as a sign of friendship; their disposition was as regular as any well-disciplined troops.' John Hunter, Second Captain of the Sirius, meets the original Australians, 29 January 1788 'Several of the convicts were married yesterday and amongst them that were have wives at home. Good God what a scene of whoredom is going on there in the woman's camp.' Ralph Clark, 11 February 1788 'The stores had been long exhausted and winter was at hand...If a lucky man who had knocked down a dinner with his gun or caught a fish by angling from the rocks, invited a neighbour to dine with him, the invitation always ran, 'bring your own bread'. Even at the governor's table...every man when he sat down pulled his bread out of his pocket and laid it by his plate.'Watkin Tench, 17 April 1790 'The governor also attempted to run holding the spear with both hands to keep the end off the ground...He then begged me for God's sake to haul the spear out, which I immediately stopped to do and was in the act of doing it, when I recollected I should only haul the barb into his flesh again...Just at this instant another spear came and just grazed the skin of between the thumb and forefinger of my right hand.' Henry Waterhouse, 7 September 1790 Their task was to create a new society from the discarded remnant of the old. They were to do this in circumstances of maximum uncertainty - on unexplored territory, on the edge of a vast ocean half a world away from home, on someone else's land. They were convicted criminals, soldiers and clerks. Is it any wonder they felt buried alive? This is their story, as they told it. Through eyewitness reports - diaries, letters, journals, paintings - the first five years of a new country are vividly recalled. It is a story of anxiety and adventure, tragedy and achievement, the beginnings of the unlikely transformation of an experiment into a new society.
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